Friday, January 29, 2010

Friday Update 1/29

Almost every Friday, I update my library and share what new books I bought or received during the past week.

I'm still catching up on telling you guys what books we got for Christmas, so here are two new graphic novels:

Asterios Polyp

I don't really know what its about - it was a gift from my sister - but I know that he's an architect. Cool!

Witchblade Compendium, Vol. 1

Via Wikipedia:
Witchblade is an American comic book series from 1995 until present. ... The series follows Sara Pezzini, a tough-as-nails NYPD homicide detective who comes into possession of the Witchblade, a supernatural, sentient artifact with immense destructive and protective powers [that] has bonded with various other women throughout history. Sara struggles to hone the awesome powers of the Witchblade and fend off those with a nefarious interest in it, especially entrepreneur Kenneth Irons, [and] struggles to maintain a personal life.
Since I've read/seen all things Buffy at this point, my husband got this for me, thinking I might enjoy it, too. The only problem may be that it is huge - like 3,4 inches thick. I can't carry it around with me, so I can only read it at home.

Happy Friday!

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Review: The Blood of Flowers

The Blood of Flowers is the debut novel by Anita Amirrezvani. Set in seventeenth century Persia, it is the story of a young village girl who, with her mother, is forced to move in with her uncle and cruel aunt in the capital, Isfahan, after her father dies. The girl - who narrates the book, and is never named - has a talent for rug making, though, that may prove to be her path forward.

This was not a challenging book to read but it was captivating. The place and era where very new to me and the writing painted a lush picture. I think fans of historical fiction - especially those looking for a change from the usual British royalty fare - will enjoy this book.

Buy The Blood of Flowers: A Novel on Amazon.

Please note that there are several sex scenes, so this book may not be appropriate for younger readers.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Teaser Tuesday 1/26

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along!

Just do the following:

  • Grab your current read
  • Open to a random page
  • Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
  • Share the title & author, too, so that others can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teaser!
From Seventh Son (Tales of Alvin Maker, Book 1) by Orson Scott Card
Never mind that they might never see each other again, once the boy left for his apprenticeship back in the place of his birth. That only added to the sweetness of the moment, which would soon become a memory, would soon become a dream.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Did Architects Fail Haiti?

Every time I turn hear or read the news this week, it breaks my heart a little. I've heard wildly divergent numbers for the death toll in Haiti, but whatever it winds up being, we know this: its too high.

Now, no one in the world has asked my opinion, but I have to say something about the terrible toll this earthquake has taken on the people of Haiti. Obviously, earthquakes are not man made. Despite some crackpot opinions about global warming that I have heard, earthquakes happen because of the shifting of tectonic plates, deep in the earth. It has nothing to do with what humans do up on the surface. Since humans discovered what causes earthquakes, scientists have been searching for a way to predict and prevent them from occurring. Despite the enormous amount of research that has gone into this subject, we are no closer to doing so. Earthquakes remain unpredictable and dangerous. But that does not, in my opinion, let us off the hook for what has happened to the Haitian people.

Are you aware there was an earthquake in the very northern part of California the same week as the earthquake in Haiti? It was a 6.5, much less than the 7.0 that rocked Haiti, but still very significant. The California earthquake badly damaged parts of Eureka, causing over $20 million in damage. According to press reports, about 30 people were injured, one seriously enough that she had to be admitted to the hospital.

Let me repeat that: a significant earthquake hit a mid-sized US city and 30 people were injured. No one died.*

Is the devastation that hit Haiti just an "act of God," then? Emphatically, let me state that we do not have the technology to build "earthquake-proof" buildings. But we can build safer buildings. Clearly, we have the knowledge and technology to build buildings that can allow the occupants to exit safely. We also have the know-how to build the buildings that house first-responders (police, fire, paramedics, etc) so that only extremely large seismic events will disrupt them. This is the case in California, where our Emergency Services Act helps ensure that after a major event, there are at least some working police, firefighters and paramedics, and, equally important, the dispatchers needed to make sure those first responders get to the people who need them.

So let me return to the question that started this topic in my mind: did architects fail the people of Haiti? Should we be working as a profession to ensure that all people, everywhere, can reliably live in a safe place? It will not surprise you to find that I think the answer to this question is yes.

Fortunately, there are smart people in this world who beat me to the punch in thinking about these issues. I'm particularly impressed by the folks at Architecture For Humanity, who have been in business for over 10 years, working to bring safe shelter to people around the world. Check out their site and give if you feel so inclined.

* Since the Richter scale is logarithmic (for example, a 7.0 is 10 times more powerful than a 6.0), the Haiti earthquake was 5 times more powerful than one in Eureka. More equivalently, the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake, which caused part of the Bay Bridge and a section of the freeway in Oakland to collapse, was a 6.9. From Wikipedia: Fifty-seven of the deaths were directly caused by the earthquake; six further fatalities were ruled to have been caused indirectly. In addition, there were 3,757 injuries as a result of the earthquake—400 severely hurt. The loss of life in the SF Bay Area during this earthquake was tragic, but it was not near the scale of what we are seeing in Haiti. I believe my point still stands.

Update: Some thoughts on Chile's earthquake as well.

The Best YA Books You Haven't Read

Kelly at YAnnabe posted recently about how so many YA books we love don't get the attention they deserve. I'll let her explain:
After seeing all the "best of 2009" lists lately, I've been thinking about how so many great YA books get published every year but don't make a splash. Most barely register a ripple. And of course, the vast majority of great YA books don't approach anywhere NEAR the fervor of The-Series-That-Must-Not-Be-Named.

So these great YA books get published, they get read by a few people that year and maybe the next, but then they end up on the bargain rack at the bookstore and start their descent into obsolescence.

It's a damn shame.
So Kelly had the idea of putting together a list of our favorite unsung YA books and all promoting these books on the same day. Here's my list (links go to my reviews). The numbers represent how many people on LibraryThing own this book.

Year of the Horse: A Novel 5
The President's Daughter 157
The Carbon Diaries, 2015 159
The Alchemaster's Apprentice 246

As you can tell, the books are in order of least to most owned. The funny thing is, for me, they are also in order of preference. Year of the Horse was my most unexpectedly loved books last year and The President's Daughter is an updated re-issue of one of my childhood favorites.

For more information and links to everybody else's lists, see YAnnabe's post today.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Wondrous Words Wednesday

I've never participated in Wondrous Word Wednesdays before. Honestly, I don't look words up. I have a big vocabulary to begin with (so much reading as a kid, I guess) and 99% of the time, I can get it from context. That's good enough to me. But last week I ran into a word that had me baffled. Part of it that there was no context, so I actually had to check the dictionary.

Last week Shelf Awareness asked UK mystery/crime writer Mo Hayder what is her favorite line from a book:
The opening line of Earthly Powers by Anthony Burgess. "It was the afternoon of my eighty-first birthday, and I was in bed with my catamite when Ali announced that the archbishop had come to see me." Woah. Now there's a sentence that does the work of an army in terms of plot and characterization and pacing.
Catamite? Is that a big cat? Oh, no.

catamite: a boy kept for homosexual practices. ORIGIN late 16th cent.: from Latin catamitus, via Etruscan from Greek Ganumēdēs (Ganymede).

Learn something new every day, I guess!

Wondrous Word Wednesday is hosted by Kathy of Bermudaonion.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Teaser Tuesday 1/19

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along!

Just do the following:

  • Grab your current read
  • Open to a random page
  • Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
  • Share the title & author, too, so that others can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teaser!
For the first time since I started doing this meme, I'm repeating a book. Its a chunkster, though, so I'm not too embarrassed about still reading it.
"I don't know what strange twisted game you're playing, George, but this I do know ... That I'd need far more than your worthless word to believe Anne's fled the Herber."

"Well, my 'worthless word is all you're going to get."
From The Sunne In Splendour: A Novel of Richard III by Sharon Kay Penman. You can also read my previous TT for the The Sunne in Splendour.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Movie Review: Up in the Air

Husband and I went to see Up in the Air this past weekend and I thought I'd share some thoughts. For those of you who haven't heard about this movie, it is the latest George Clooney flick. Directed by Jason Reitman, it also stars the lovely Vera Farmiga and Anna Kendrick. Clooney plays a hired gun of sorts, a man who flies around the country firing people whose companies are too cowardly to fire their own employees. He reluctantly mentors Kendrick's character and not at all reluctantly beds Farmiga's. Kendrick was new to me, by the way, and just great. All the acting in this film was great, actually. I was very impressed by all the great small parts - primarily the people Clooney fires - throughout the film. Who knew Spiderman's nasty boss could be such a softie?

Up in the Air was, by turns, laugh out loud funny and incredibly sad. It was just a bittersweet, wonderful movie, that perfectly captures this era we're in.

Now I'm going to mention some potentially spoiler-y things, so CAUTION and stop reading if you are fearful of spoilers.

Husband and I spent some time after the movie talking about the ending. I was surprised by it. I thought it worked well, don't get me wrong. But I was just expecting that in typical fashion, they'd either make it very happy or very sad. Instead, I found the end to be, like the rest of the movie, bittersweet. It was hopeful but not exactly happy. /Spoilers

All in all, I really liked Up in the Air and strongly recommend it. Oh, and for the ladies, George isn't so hard on the eyes, you know?

Thursday, January 14, 2010

the third and the seventh

Just watched a lovely video about architecture I found on archinect and wanted to share. Some days, I love being an architect.

The Third & The Seventh from Alex Roman on Vimeo.

Wishlist: Unpacking My Library

I saw this book at my favorite local bookstore before Christmas. But I was restricting my purchases that day to books for other people only, so I passed. I'll have to go back and get it for myself soon, as a belated present.

Unpacking My Library: Architects and Their Books edited by Jo Steffens
What does a library say about the mind of its owner? How do books map the intellectual interests, curiosities, tastes, and personalities of their readers? What does the collecting of books have in common with the practice of architecture? Unpacking My Library provides an intimate look at the personal libraries of twelve of the world’s leading architects, alongside conversations about the significance of books to their careers and lives.

Photographs of bookshelves—displaying well-loved and rare volumes, eclectic organizational schemes, and the individual touches that make a bookshelf one’s own—provide an evocative glimpse of their owner’s personal life. Each architect also presents a reading list of top ten influential titles, from architectural history to theory to fiction and nonfiction, that serves as a personal philosophy of literature and history, and advice on what every young architect, scholar, and lover of architecture should read.
Check out the unpacking my library website, too.

On a side note, this book reminded me a bit of a post I did about books architects own. I'll have to check to see if the books I listed are in this book.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Short Story Reviews

I don't normally read short stories, but on a whim a while ago I bought two from one story after reading about it on She is Too Fond of Books. It took me a while to get around to reading them, too. I just don't think short stories are my thing. I'm always just left feeling like "that was it?" when I'm done. But I'll take a shot at writing a little about the two I read anyway. Just know that everything I say here should be read with a grain of salt. Short story buffs may feel totally differently.

Villanova: OR: How I Became a Former Professional Literary Agent by John Hodgman (One Story #1)

The basic story is that the narrator ("John Hodgman," one presumes) is a literary agent at some ghastly writing conference and a reclusive, crazy, science fiction writer superstar, who he decides to try to get as a client, is there as well.

I picked this one for a few reasons, none of which really have nothing to do with the actual story.
1) It was story #1 and I thought it might be cool to get the first one they published.
2) My best friend went to Villanova and I spent a lot of time there. Turns out, though, the story has nothing to do with the University and only very briefly mentions the town at all.
3) I think John Hodgman is funny on The Daily Show. And he is funny in the story, too, but I'm not sure how well that translated for me. Was this supposed to be tongue in cheek? It was hard to tell.

All in all, it was an interesting story but not great.

The Duck and the Dust Eye Decision by Shahan Sanossian (One Story #37)

I don't remember why I picked this one. The title just caught my eye, I guess. And then the first page pulled me in, so I bought it. This story is about a boy from an unhappy family that has a strange medical condition that makes the world look dusty. Are the unhappy because they see the world as brown and ugly? Or are they just unhappy people at heart? The boy may have the opportunity to travel for a cure, but that would mean leaving the insular, unhappy world his family has created.

This was a pretty unhappy story, I thought, but it was really thought-provoking. I thought it was different and interesting. I wish it wasn't so short, but that's a compliment to the author.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Teaser Tuesday 1/12

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along!

Just do the following:

  • Grab your current read
  • Open to a random page
  • Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
  • Share the title & author, too, so that others can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teaser!
From The Blood of Flowers by Anita Amirrezvani:
Burlap bags overflowed with mint, dill, coriander, dried lemon, turmeric, saffron, and many spices I didn't recognize. I distinguished the flowery yet bitter odor of fenugreek, which set my mouth watering for a lamb stew, for we had not tasted meat in many months.
Blood of Flowers is my next book club book.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Review: Acupuncture and Chinese Herbal Medicine for Women's Health

Acupuncture and Chinese Herbal Medicine for Women's Health: Bridging the Gap Between Western and Eastern Medicine was written by Kathleen Albertson, a practitioner of Eastern Medicine. From the description:
Effective health care for women is crucial. Women have suffered for years as Western medicine suggests drugs or surgeries to ease symptoms. Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) offers natural resolution and has successfully treated gynecological diseases, infertility, a variety of illnesses and health problems facing women for over 5,000 years.

This book explores the potential value of TCM so that women can consider their treatment options. ... Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine for Women's Health examines nutritional and lifestyle tips to help you make better, more informed health choices, while correlating emotional health, such as stress, overwork, exhaustion and depression with physical health.
There is an incredible amount of information in this book. Clearly, it was very well researched. The author brought to it a career built on understanding TCM and acupuncture, and also went out of her way to uncover all the latest research on how TCM treats women's health issues. The nutritional information was, in particular, new and enlightening. If you are looking for a resource on TCM, holistic nutrition, and acupuncture treatments for OB/GYN problems, infertility, or a whole host of other women's health issues, you might find this book helpful.

Personally, though, I found it to be too much. I was overwhelmed reading this book. I got lost in the lengthy descriptions of symptoms for each malady and my attention wavered reading all the descriptions of published studies showing the effective use of TCM. There was so much that I wasn't quite sure whether this book was really intended for a layperson. It felt, at times, like a resource for an Eastern medicine practitioner.

I also felt like the subtitle on this book was misleading ("Bridging the Gap Between Western & Eastern Medicine") as this aspect of the book was short-changed in comparison to the rest. Instead, this part of this book can be summarized in about two or three sentences: Do you have an illness that is currently being treated by Western medicine? You should try TCM or acupuncture, too. Studies show that they really work well and usually have fewer side effects. There you go.

Its not to say that no one would enjoy this book. If you are woman getting TCM or acupuncture and would like a deeper understanding of your illness or treatment, or would like nutritional information as well, you may really enjoy it. For me, though, this book wasn't worth the labor it took to read.

Buy Acupuncture and Chinese Herbal Medicine for Women's Health: Bridging the Gap Between Western and Eastern Medicine on Amazon.

If you are in Southern California and interested in learning more, here's the website for Dr. Albertson's office in Orange County.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Friday Update

Every Friday, I update my library and share what new books I bought or received during the past week.

By the time I hit post on this, I am sure it won't be Friday anymore. Oh, well. I had a busy day. And I'm going to have an even busier weekend.

Between gifts and shopping, we got several new books since I last posted an update. I think I'll just talk about a few today.

First, I won Angels: A Pop-Up Book by Chuck Fischer from Bermuda Onion! She had a really interesting interview with the paper engineer Bruce Foster that I enjoyed. It was really cool to actually get a copy and get to see the results of his hard work. Thank you to Bermuda Onion and Bruce Foster!

For Christmas, from my boss, I got NorCalMod: Icons of Northern California Modernism by Pierluigi Serraino. It is gorgeous. And I always like know more about the architecture in the area I live.

The last book I'll mention I got today will answer the question (posed earlier) of where we spent Christmas: Hawai'i!

Hawaii's Birds by the Hawaiian Audubon Society: I'm not a birder, but I thought this was a concise, well-illustrated guide to all the different birds I saw on our trip.

The trip, by the way, was amazing. We spent a week on the Big Island. I got to go snorkeling, coffee tasting, see the volcano, and lava hitting the ocean. So cool! It was my first time and I am ready to go back again.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Where Was I?

Wondering where I spent my Christmas this year? (And it doesn't count if you are related to me or are reading this on Facebook - I think you already know the answer to that question.) How about I give you some hints?

I'll have the answer tomorrow.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Review: Thunderhead

As I mentioned when I did Thunderhead for Teaser Tuesday, this book was recommended to me by a good friend. I'm not sure I would have picked it up otherwise, as it is pretty far outside my normal range for genres. As for what genre it is - its a thriller, with a hearty dash of new West western (meaning, archaeology and Native American lore, not shoot-em-up Wild West). There was an undercurrent of spookiness that could have gone into the supernatural but didn't quite.

Thunderhead is about an archaeologist who receives a long lost letter from her pot hunter (aka, amateur archaeologist) father giving her the clues to the location of a long lost Anasazi city. Soon, she is leading an expedition to find the city and uncover the riches presumably hidden there. No surprise, of course, that road blocks occur, some natural, some man made, and there's a doubt if anyone will make it out alive.

The plot felt a little like the authors were working from a checklist - feisty heroine? Check. Grizzled cowboy? Check. Racing against a clock? Check. Etc. Check. - but it moved at a quick pace. Also, and maybe this is because I don't normally read books like Thunderhead, I learned something new (mostly about archaeology and the Anasazi) which I always enjoy. Altogether, this was an enjoyable fun read, and one that I would recommend to anyone who likes a good thriller.

Buy Thunderhead on Amazon.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Out Today - Your Hate Mail Will Be Graded

Just a heads up that Your Hate Mail Will Be Graded by John Scalzi (link goes to my review) is out today in paperback. So now you can read it on the train and not scare whoever is sitting across from you with the weird hardcover cover.

Buy Your Hate Mail Will Be Graded: A Decade of Whatever, 1998-2008.

Teaser Tuesday 1/5

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along!

Just do the following:

  • Grab your current read
  • Open to a random page
  • Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
  • Share the title & author, too, so that others can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teaser!
This week's teaser is from a book that I think many people believe to be one of the classics of historical fiction: The Sunne in Splendour by Sharon Kay Penman.
"You are remarkably well informed, my lord Buckingham."

"I cannot afford not to be."
Buy The Sunne In Splendour: A Novel of Richard III on Amazon.

Monday, January 4, 2010

The New Year

Hello, friends. The new year has started out with a whimper here at arch thinking headquarters, as I have been laid up with the flu and husband is fading fast. We had a marvelous vacation, but it involved a lot of time spent on airplanes and in strange places, so I guess I shouldn't be too surprised that we managed to pick up some sort of a nasty bug. So I am extending my blogging holiday for a few more days, in the hopes that I will feel up to the task of staring at a computer screen for longer than a minute soon.